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Center for Great Plains Studies


Doug Wirtz

     My first 16 years were spent in Kansas, 14 years in Caldwell and 1 ½ years in Mankato, when my parents moved the family to California. In 2002 I retired from the fire service and bought my first digital camera, becoming “obsessed” with photography which led to visits to local wildlife reserves and eventually to tenure as a volunteer with the Solano Land Trust, photographing their properties. My specialty is macro-photographs of flora and fauna. Having photographed from California to Yellowstone to Tennessee it is my opinion Kansas has the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Favoring the morning light, many of my photos are taken during the early morning hours although Kansas sunsets are striking.


     Returning to Kansas, which was far too infrequent prior to retirement, is always accompanied by a profound sense of relief. The first view of home is always the Co-op elevator standing above the horizon and many windmills stand along the way, a silent reminder of a different time on the prairie. Elevators and windmills are not the only subjects photographed in Kansas but I’m always drawn to them. Elevators not only embrace many childhood memories but are emblematic of a way of life few outside the community understand. The sacrifices and victories the “plains people” endure in provisioning the country and the world should always be remembered. ‘’


     Windmills were always an essential part of farm life. While that began to change with rural electrification they remain a vanishing reminder of our reliance on nature. My favorite windmill stands next to a pond at the Kan-Okla business office on the north side of Caldwell. It not only has a clear view of the horizon and a water feature but the offices stand where my childhood home was located. There are two elevators in Caldwell. The Co-op elevator which stands next to the Rock Island railroad tracks which run north-south through Caldwell. The older elevator stands two blocks west of KanOkla. The abandoned railroad right-of-way to its north, formerly occupied by the Santa Fe railroad, was a place where my siblings and I spent time with my Grandfather and his friends.

     My desire is to return to Kansas as soon as possible as there can be no better place to live. Until then I will continue to visit, and photograph, the many “moods” of Kansas. Additional photograph collections can be found on flikr.com under the screen name of "ozoneretired."

 Windmill Images

Grain Elevators